Trump's indictment has yet not sparked plans for large-scale protests, but experts urge caution and vigilance in days ahead
Following Thursday's announcement that the former president had been indicted, prominent conservatives and allies of his expressed outrage and echoed his calls for protest.
Groups that monitor far-right and extremist channels online say they haven’t seen immediate signs of organizing for large-scale protests or credible threats of violence in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s indictment on charges related to his alleged role in a hush money payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels. They cautioned, however, that this could change, since Trump is expected to be arrested and arraigned before a judge in New York next week.
“While we are not seeing significant organizing yet in response to the indictment, bigoted and violent rhetoric from Trump supporters and Trump himself is abundant,” said Lindsay Schubiner, director of programs at Western States Center, a Portland, Ore.-based civil rights organization. “This could easily lead to mobilizations and violence in the coming days and weeks.”
Ahead of the indictment, on March 18, Trump wrote on his Truth Social network that he was going to be arrested three days later and called for his supporters to “PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!”
Following the announcement on Thursday evening that a Manhattan grand jury had voted to hand up an indictment — making Trump the first former president in history to be charged with a crime — prominent conservative figures and allies of his expressed outrage and echoed his calls for protest.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said she’d be in New York on Tuesday, writing, “We MUST protest the unconstitutional WITCH HUNT!” She added, “New York put your MAGA hats on. Under our constitutional rights, we WILL support President Trump and protest the tyrants. I’ll see you on Tuesday.” Prior to the news of the indictment, Greene had downplayed the need for protests after Trump initially called for them.
Jack Posobiec, a far-right commentator and conspiracy theorist, posted a video to his Twitter account Thursday evening stating that Trump supporters were not scared. “Bring it on,” he concluded. “Bring on every piece of this. Because every single red-blooded American is about to get activated peacefully and patriotically."
Mocking progressive criminal justice reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., encouraged Trump to assault an NYPD police officer next week, writing, “On the way to the DA’s office on Tuesday, Trump should smash some windows, rob a few shops and punch a cop. He would be released IMMEDIATELY!”
More than two years ago, Trump rallied thousands of his supporters to gather in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, for what he called a “wild” protest of the 2020 election results that resulted in the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol, multiple deaths and hundreds of arrests.
Analysts with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a nonpartisan think tank that studies disinformation and extremism, noted Friday that the responses to Trump’s indictment on far-right channels so far were nowhere near “the level of engagement in the lead up to January 6.”
“What we have observed is that Trump supporters are reluctant to engage in crimes that could land them in jail like the January 6 insurrectionists,” an ISD representative said in a statement. “This corroborates ISD research indicating that many previous prominent Trump supporters and members of the far right are hesitant to take any risks for him, believing that they are being unfairly targeted by law enforcement and that nobody will help them if they find themselves indicted on serious charges.”
Still, ISD’s analysts noted that after Trump’s earlier call for protests in mid-March, when he predicted that he would be indicted, some supporters did turn out for small, in-person protests in New York, California and Florida. They also observed that calls for protests that have circulated in the wake of the indictment, which have so far received minimal traction, have focused on this coming weekend and on April 4, when Trump is expected to be arrested and arraigned in court.
So far, discussions of violence or civil war in response to the indictment have come from individual actors on fringe platforms, such as Telegram and Gab, mimicking similar rhetoric that was seen in posts following the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago in August 2022.
Both ISD and Western States also warned that Trump and other top Republicans could still potentially inspire violence with their use of antidemocratic language framing the indictment as a politicized “witch hunt” and a “weaponization” of the justice system, or their bigoted attacks on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.
“Racist attacks on DA Bragg and invocation of antisemitic conspiracy theories about George Soros are prominent on the far right, as are attempts to proactively blame their opponents for instigating potential pro-Trump violence,” said Schubiner. “And this rhetoric is coming from leading GOP elected officials such as DeSantis, not just those on the fringe.”
In a series of posts on his social media platform, Truth Social, and a flurry of fundraising emails sent by his 2024 presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly referred to Bragg as a “puppet” of the Jewish billionaire George Soros, a comment that groups monitoring bigotry call an antisemitic dog whistle. Soros has been invoked by a number of leading Republicans, including the top perceived rival to Trump in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis referred to Bragg as a “Soros-backed” prosecutor twice in one tweet criticizing the indictment and saying he would not extradite Trump. It was retweeted by others like Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and conservative activist Tom Fitton. The phrase has also been regurgitated by numerous posters on far-right social platforms like Telegram and repeated frequently on Fox News.
Last week Trump called Bragg a “Soros-backed animal,” prompting a group of Black and Jewish lawmakers from New York to condemn the former president’s “incendiary racist and anti-Semitic” language.
In the weeks leading up to Trump’s indictment, law enforcement sources in New York reported that Bragg and his office had been the subject of "several hundred threats,” including a letter containing a death threat and white powder that was mailed to his office last week. The powder was ultimately determined not to be dangerous.
Other Trump supporters described the indictment as a “weaponization” of the justice system, including Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.; and Laura Loomer, a conservative commentator and former congressional candidate in Florida.
The ISD representative emphasized that analysts are continuing to monitor far-right channels closely, and added that the initial lack of large-scale organizing “is not to suggest that there should be any less vigilance or preparation for all appropriate contingencies.”